New Mexican consul takes over Utah-Western Wyoming office

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It's taken more than 15 months, but Mexican officials finally appointed Ignacio Rios Navarro as the country's consul in Salt Lake City.

Rios, who started his job this month, will oversee the Mexican consulate that serves the estimated 350,000 Mexicans in Utah and western Wyoming.

Among his top goals: Find a way to better serve the growing number of Mexicans moving here.

And, he said, he will work with local authorities, as well as with churches and community groups, to make sure the Latino community is provided with proper information about Utah's new immigration laws.

Everyone who visits the consulate will be equally served as long as they have the proper paperwork, Rios said.

"We follow rules now, laws and handbooks," he told reporters. "We have very strict rules."

Rios, 59, is the former consul of the Mexican Embassy in the United Kingdom. When he moved to Utah earlier this month, it was his first time in the Beehive State, he said.

Rios said he was excited about his move to Utah because of the state's international reputation and its clout among political, economic and religious issues in the United States.

"I was so happy," he said of his appointment. "I [am] so proud to be the consul of this beautiful city."

Maximizing consulate office space has become a high priority.

The consulate is on the third floor of an office building at 155 S. 300 West. Some 200 people, mostly Mexicans, visit daily for various services, from applying for dual citizenship to Mexican passports to birth certificates. The office also provides services for anyone who needs information about Mexico.

Rios said he's not sure about getting bigger offices yet, but he wants to rearrange the current office to better accommodate the public. He also wants to hire more employees and improve customer service. He only has a staff of 16 to assist the increasing Mexican population in Utah.

"We want to give the best services to Mexicans," he said in an interview after a news conference Tuesday announcing his appointment.

Rios replaced former consul Salvador Jimenez, who served three years at the Salt Lake City consulate and retired in December 2007. Eusebio Romero, a deputy consul, had been the acting consul since January 2008.

As for getting to know his new state, Rios said he hasn't had a chance to visit many Mexican stores and eateries yet because he's been looking for a house. He'll probably be buying a house in Holladay.

Rios grew up in Jacona near the border of the Mexican states of Michoacan and Jalisco. Many of the Mexicans in Utah are from these two states. Rios said his connection to the area helps in his contacts with other Mexicans here.

"I feel at home," he said.

New In Town

Ignacio Rios Navarro

Age: 59

New job: Consul of the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City

Old jobs:

» 2004-09, Consul of the Mexican Embassy in the United Kingdom

» Worked at Mexican embassies in Venezuela, India, the former Soviet Union, China and Israel.

Education: Bachelor's in international relations, National Autonomous University of Mexico; master's in military administration, Military and Air Forces University of Mexico

Family: Wife, Lidia Herrera Aguilar; two sons and a daughter.